The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It sure was nice of Eliot Spitzer to become embroiled in a prostitution scandal so juicy as to bring me out of semi-retirement. (Last logged into Blogger in December. Last son born in November. I'll blog about that too, someday.)

I often rehearse posts in my head before writing them down, and this figured to be a short missive, something like:

Remember when William Bennett empowered Las Vegas casinos, though perhaps not America, to the tune of $8 million? Now it's been discovered that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer patronized a high-priced prostitution ring. Spitzer was an aggressive and enthusiastic prosecutor of all sorts of real and imagined vice, including cathouses. He referred to himself as a "fucking steamroller"; it is as yet unclear whether this was his nickname among the professional ladies.

When Bennett was caught with his pockets inside out I wrote a post mocking his defenders. No need for that today; I can't imagine anyone defending Spitzer.

Consider my imagination defective! Turns out there are lots of folk willing to defend Governor Steamroller. For instance, Glenn Greenwald writes in Salon:

Who cares if Eliot Spitzer hires prostitutes?

Regarding all of the breathless moralizing from all sides over the "reprehensible," outrageous crimes of Eliot Spitzer: are there actually many people left who care if an adult who isn't their spouse hires prostitutes? Are there really people left who think that doing so should be a crime, that adults who hire other consenting adults for sex should be convicted and go to prison?

Just as was true for moral crusaders David Vitter and Larry Craig, there is unquestionably a healthy chunk of hypocrisy in Spitzer's case, given that, as Attorney General, he previously prosecuted -- quite aggressively and publicly -- several citizens for the "crime" of operating an adult prostitution business. That hypocrisy precludes me from having any real personal sympathy for Spitzer, and no reasonable person could defend him from charges of rank hypocrisy. And he should be treated no differently -- no better and no worse -- than the average citizen whom law enforcement catches hiring prostitutes.


Greenwald goes on at great length, and hundreds of comments pick up where he left off. One reason I blog less than I used to is that I am sick of the stupidity induced by partisan politics, and this post demonstrates many such failings:

* Conflating virtue with legality: I think that it should be legal for people to patronize prostitutes. That does not mean that I think it is right and proper for married people. Nor do I think that people in positions of power should engage in activities that compromise them. "Hey Steam, we were just looking at our guestbook and thinking -- wouldn't you like to arrange for my colleague to get a permit for a building he wants to construct? Perhaps you could stay there with Daniela when it's built."

* Defending against an attack that hasn't been made: I don't know whether Spitzer will be "treated no differently" by the law, and don't really care. I do know that it's a teeny bit more newsworthy when a john turns out to be a governor and crusading muckety-muck, rather than some two-bit loser I've never heard of. I do know that people who hold important office, public or private, do resign when embroiled in prostitution scandals.

* General fan-boy "my team is better than yours" stupidity. Lots of commenters complained about a Louisiana senator who was in a similar position -- he would have had to work hard to match Spitzer's accomplishments in the fields of bullying and incarceration, but never mind that now. Well, so what? My gut reaction upon reading such an argument is I guess both your parties suck.

If the powerful in government can terrorize and imprison the general populace with laws that they themselves are under no special obligation to honor, then we are more than halfway down the road to the Russian model of government, where one of the chief emmolients of public office is the immunity it provides against prosecution for crimes.



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